You could trace the mountains in the night. In Rio, they stick out like fence palings and in the darkness the landscape looms, the cliffs a shade darker than the sky.

Rafael Nadal walked past. When I pointed him out to people, they were surprised to see he's quite short.

He's not, really. It's just a quirk of perspective. You've never felt so genetically inferior, so damn small and weak as you do ambling through the Olympic Athletes' Village.

The amphitheatre was filling up with black jackets and crisp shirts.


It was a biscuit with a bite missing: almost filled up, but with a gap of 50 or 60 degrees. In the gap, on a simple black mannequin, the kakahu cloaks waited for the flagbearer announcement.

Rob Waddell quoted Trump.

He asked our 199 athletes to imagine the Don's campaign slogan in a New Zealand political context.

"Make New Zealand great again?" It'd never happen, he said. We are great already, he told our team. We just don't make a big song and dance.

There were words about the moral importance of competing clean and fair. About leadership. About medals. Waddell defined achievement to our 2016 Olympians, broad as they are in experience and talent and shoulders. Success can be everything from winning a gold or scoring a personal best, he said, to smiling at foreign competitors as you wait in the blocks.

Peter Burling looked nervous. He tapped his foot up and down. Sonny Bill whispered to his mate. Sir Mark Todd eased back and crossed his legs.

"No pressure on those of you who've been talked up as medal prospects," said Sir Jerry Mateparae. "But you know," he paused. "Good luck."

It was a warm night. You could hear insects working nearby but nothing too bitey or pesky or close.

The Kiwis sang their anthem and draped the kakahu on the shoulders of two men. And the games began.